Friends, family elated about reporter's release

Friday, March 31, 2006

BOSTON -- For the friends and family of kidnapped freelance reporter Jill Carroll, nearly three months of worry -- heightened every time grim stories about hostages in Iraq made the news -- evaporated with a phone call Thursday morning.

"Hi, Dad. This is Jill. I'm released."

Carroll's conversation with her father tipped off calls across the country, from family to friends to colleagues.

"Today's just a wonderful day of rejoicing," said Richard Bergenheim, Carroll's editor at the Boston-based Christian Science Monitor.

Carroll, 28, who was working as a freelancer for the Monitor, was handed over to the Iraqi Islamic Party office in the Amiriya neighborhood of western Baghdad, by an unknown group. She was later turned over to American officials and taken to the heavily fortified Green Zone.

Carroll said her captors never harmed or threatened her.

"We got the call this morning," Carroll's father, Jim, told reporters outside his North Carolina home. "It was quite the wake up call, to say the least."

He thanked all the family's supporters in the U.S. and Iraq, and the Monitor.

"We've had an arduous three months," Jim Carroll said. "It's been very, very difficult on the family and all of the friends, and obviously all the people around the world."

Carroll was kidnapped Jan. 7 in Baghdad's western Adil neighborhood, where she had gone to interview Sunni Arab politician Adnan al-Dulaimi. Her translator was killed in the attack about 300 yards from al-Dulaimi's office.

Her captors, calling themselves the Revenge Brigades, demanded the release of all women detainees in Iraq by Feb. 26 or they would kill Carroll, too.

But the date came and went with no word about her welfare.

Her family, the newspaper and press freedom groups issued several pleas for her release.

Just before she was freed, her sister Katie Carroll pleaded for her freedom on Arab television, saying: "I've been living a nightmare, worrying if she is hurt or ill."

Then, Thursday morning, the ordeal ended.

"Our hearts are full. We are elated by Jill's safe release," her family said in a statement released by Bergenheim.

"We're thrilled," Carroll's mother, Mary Beth Carroll, later told The Associated Press in a quick phone call from her home near Chicago.

Carroll grew up in Ann Arbor, Mich., and graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in journalism. She went to the Middle East in 2002 after being laid off from a newspaper job. She had long dreamed of covering a war.

At her alma mater, the good news spread fast. Her journalism professors lauded her commitment and passion.

"Her journalism represents the best principles in the field," professor Karen List said.

Michael Busack, editor of The Collegian, said Carroll has been an inspiration to reporters working for the campus newspaper.

"I think that this could be me in a few years," said Busack, a senior. "She had enough guts to face danger. Jill Carroll has changed my life as a young reporter."

Political leaders also reacted.

President Bush, in Mexico, responded to the news with the words: "Thank God." Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed "great delight and great relief of the United States, the people of the United States and, I'm sure, the people of the world at the release today of Jill Carroll."

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said he felt like celebrating.

"I feared we wouldn't see her again. To hear that she has been released is just a great show of humanity," he said.

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